Extraordinary Portraits of Insects in Flight

For immediate release ‐ November 10, 2021

Contact: Adrian Smith, 919.707.8095 and Jon Pishney, 919.707.8083. Images available upon request

Dr. Adrian Smith, Head of the Museum’s Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab, has produced a new video of insects in flight inspired by a pioneering book from the mid-70s. The video also celebrates Smith reaching 100,000 subscribers to his Ant Lab YouTube channel!

A viewer sent Smith a copy of “Borne on the Wind: The Extraordinary World of Insects in Flight” which, in 1975, published photos of insects in mid-air flight. Photos from that series were seen as such an achievement that one was included on the gold record sent off to space on Voyager. To collect those first images, a special flash that could fire at 1/25,000 of a second and an electronic shutter that had an opening time of 1/450 second had to be custom made.

Nowadays, a phantom camera filming at 6,000 frames per second (fps) does the job of capturing similar image sequences. All of Smith’s sequences were filmed at 6,000 fps. Most play back at 30fps, but some are edited to play back faster. Multiple captures are edited together so that more than one insect appears on-screen at the same time.

  • 00:00 – Flatid Planthopper
  • 00:30 – Intro
  • 01:13 – Chinese Mantis
  • 01:42 – American Bird Grasshopper
  • 02:21 – Broad-headed Sharpshooter Leafhopper
  • 02:48 – Stink bug
  • 03:27 – Ichneumonid wasp
  • 03:57 – Brown Lacewing
  • 04:40 – Tiger moth

Back to the News